TIME Religion

What’s the Origin of the Easter Bunny?

Getty Images

It doesn't come from the Bible

Easter is the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, but the seasonal chocolate eggs and the bunny who delivers them are nowhere to be found in scripture.

The exact origins of the Easter bunny are clouded in mystery. One theory is that the symbol of the rabbit stems from pagan tradition, specifically the festival of Eostre—a goddess of fertility whose animal symbol was a bunny. Rabbits, known for their energetic breeding, have traditionally symbolized fertility.

Eggs are also representative of new life, and it’s believed that decorating eggs for Easter dates back to the 13th century. Hundreds of years ago, churches had their congregations abstain from eggs during Lent, allowing them to be consumed again on Easter. According to History.com, in the 19th century Russian high society started exchanging ornately decorated eggs—even jewel encrusted—on Easter.

But how did the Easter Bunny begin delivering eggs on American shores? According to History.com, the theory with the most evidence is that the floppy-eared bearer of candy came over with German immigrants:

According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the fabled rabbit’s Easter morning deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, while decorated baskets replaced nests. Additionally, children often left out carrots for the bunny in case he got hungry from all his hopping.

Bunnies aren’t the animal traditionally associated with Easter in every country. Some identify the holiday with other types of animals like foxes or cuckoo birds.

TIME faith

Indiana Religious Freedom Law Breeds ‘First Church of Cannabis’

Marijuana plants are seen in an indoor cultivation in Montevideo
Andres Stapff—Reuters

Could the use of marijuana as a religious sacrament be protected under Indiana's new law?

Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act is facing its first real test — after Governor Mike Pence signed the controversial law, an Indiana man successfully filed to establish the “First Church of Cannabis Inc.”

The church is based on “love and understanding with compassion for all,” according to its founder’s interview with the Washington Post, and its sacrament, naturally, is cannabis. The church doesn’t plan to buy or sell marijuana, which is still illegal in Indiana, but it will grow hemp.

The church’s founder Bill Levin considers most religious holy texts things of the past. In his church, parishioners should have a profound understanding of “The Emperor Wears No Clothes,” he said. The church’s followers, called “cannataerians” also have a set of guiding principles, the first of them: “don’t be an a—hole.”

It may sound like a joke, but the church’s establishment is a real product of the new Indiana law that limits the state government’s ability to impede on an individual’s religious beliefs. Because the church celebrates the drug under the guise of religion, its use could be protected under the law.

[Washington Post]

TIME faith

Here’s Why Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday in a catholic chapel
Getty Images Palm Sunday in a catholic chapel

It's the day Jesus entered Jerusalem before the Crucifixion

On Sunday, Christians all over the world will be carrying palms and other branches. That’s because it’s Palm Sunday, a celebration of the day Jesus entered Jerusalem before he was crucified and then resurrected, according to the Christian faith.

Christians carry palms on Palm Sunday because according to the Gospels, Jesus’ followers covered his path in palm fronds on the day he entered Jerusalem, after the custom of placing palms in the path of a high-ranking person. The palm branch also signified victory in Greco-Roman times, so the waving palms would have resembled a triumphal procession.

In many churches, congregants twist palms into the shape of a cross to commemorate the day, or use other branches if palms are not easily accessible– in some parts of Europe, churchyards are strewn with branches and flowers. The holiday is often celebrated with a procession.

Jesus also arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey, which was considered highly symbolic. At the time, a king riding a donkey symbolized peace, while a king on a horse symbolized war — while Jesus was not technically a king, his followers considered him to be King of Israel. Palm Sunday is depicted in all four Gospels, which isn’t true of all stories about Jesus.

In some congregations, the palms are burned at the end of Palm Sunday and the ashes are saved to use on Ash Wednesday of the following year. But most of all, Palm Sunday signifies the beginning of the last week of Lent — and the beginning of Holy Week.

Read next: Pope Francis Takes Selfies With Crowd After Palm Sunday Homily

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TIME viral

Did the ‘Face of Jesus’ Appear in a Colombian Rockslide?

A landslide in Colombia has reportedly yielded what some are calling a miracle — the face of Jesus, etched on a hillside.

So many worshippers came to the site in Putumayo that police have been brought in to manage the crowd, Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reports, and some locals have begun charging the pilgrims to see the face.

“If you believe in Jesus, you will see your image,” Ximena Rosero Arango, one of the people who came to the site, told the newspaper. The image has also been making the rounds on social media since Saturday, when the crowds first began arriving.

If the image is real it would be a departure for the Son of God; usually, the countenance divine is revealed in foodstuffs.

[El Tiempo]

TIME ted cruz

Ted Cruz Launches Presidential Campaign at School Known For Glass Ceilings

Senator Ted Cruz(R-TX) delivers remarks before announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for president on March 23, 2015, at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers remarks before announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for president on March 23, 2015, at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia.

He offers a message of female empowerment at a school with few women leaders

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz launched his campaign for the presidency Monday with effusive praise for the boundary-breaking women in his life and a call for mothers, sisters and daughters to join his coming campaign.

“The answer will not come from Washington,” he said of the challenges facing the nation. “It will come only from the men and women across this country—from men and women, from people of faith, from lovers of liberty, from people who respect the Constitution.”

In a speech at Liberty University, the world’s largest Christian school, he praised the entrepreneurship of his wife, Heidi, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, who started in business as a child, baking bread and selling it at a nearby apple farm. His mother, he said in video message earlier in the day, was “a pioneer in computer science, smashing glass ceilings at a time when women were discouraged from following their dreams.” Her father, he continued in the speech, “frankly didn’t think that women should be educated.”

The praise for gender equality was all the more resonant—or perhaps discordant—because of the setting. Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., bars women as a matter of theology from becoming pastors or holding high-ranking roles of church leadership. In fact, the leadership at Liberty, where more than half the student population is female, is almost entirely male.

The school’s executive leadership is composed of 21 men and one woman, the executive vice president and vice-president of human resources. Liberty University’s Board of Trustees is comprised of 38 men and two women whose husbands also serve on the board: Beverly LaHaye, founder of Concerned Women for America, and Gaye Overton Benson, for whose family the Liberty School of Business is named. The 32 positions on the committees of the Board of Trustees are also filled entirely by men.

Likewise, all of the faculty are male at Liberty University’s Baptist Theological Seminary, where despite the ban on women becoming pastors, women can receive degrees. At the larger school, just over half of the residential student body is female, and just more than 60% of the online student population is female. “Women need to be advised that few opportunities presently exist for ordination of women among Baptist churches and Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary supports the Baptist Faith and Message as amended by the Southern Baptist Convention of June 2000,” the school tells applicants on its website.

The larger Southern Baptist Convention believes the bible bars women from becoming pastors. “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture,” reads the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

There are some programs specifically designed for women. Liberty has a Center for Women’s Ministries, which educates “today’s woman in basic principles of Biblical femininity” and seeks to equip her “to effectively evangelize and disciple other women living in America and throughout the world,” according to its website. Career opportunities for women with this focus, the site says, include women’s ministry directors, teen girls’ leaders, and event planners.

Christine Caine, an activist with Hillsong Church in Australia, partnered with the school in January to launch a broader initiative called “Propel” to equip Christian women for broader leadership, especially when they work outside the home. “For generations, women have navigated the nuances of being a woman in leadership without a roadmap,” Caine said in a news release. “Gaps in leadership training have forced women to compartmentalize their lives, separating work, church, home and personal life.”

Liberty’s glass ceilings—and those of the religious constituency Liberty signifies and that Cruz is trying to court—could complicate his message going forward. In his announcement speech, Cruz cast himself as a values candidate, with a view of American history centered around faith. “What is the promise of America?” he asked at one point in his speech. “The idea that—the revolutionary idea that this country was founded upon, which is that our rights don’t come from man. They come from God Almighty.”

Stylistically, his speech had more in common with Sunday preaching than a traditional campaign address. He roamed the circular stage, often turning his back to the television cameras, with a microphone affixed to his neck, telling the stories of redemption that lifted his family, and charting a road map for lifting the nation. “Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting,” he said. “They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”

TIME faith

Watch Pope Francis Get a Pizza in a Moving Popemobile

When you’re the Pope, your wishes really do come true

Pope Francis said earlier this month that the one thing that bugged him about being Pontiff was not being able to go out unnoticed to get pizza.

At least one Neapolitan sympathized with the Pope.

In a fearless act caught on video, pizzeria owner Enzo Cacialli ran toward the Pope’s motorcade in Naples—the legendary home of pizza—and handed the Pontiff a personal pie. Pope Francis reached down and accepted the offering, which had “Il Papa” spelled out in dough on top.

“It’s really hard for me to understand what I managed to do,” Cacialli told CNN. “Giving a pizza you made with your own hands to the Pope is very emotional. It’s really hard for me to express the value of this gesture for a man we really love and value, for a beautiful person full of humanity.”

Read next: How the World Knew What to Expect From Pope Francis

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TIME

Pope Francis to Dine with Gay and Transgender Inmates in Naples Prison

He made a special request to have lunch with inmates

Pope Francis will have lunch on Saturday with some 90 inmates at a prison near Naples, including some that reportedly come from a ward housing gay, transgender and HIV-infected inmates.

Tv2000, a television network operated by Italy’s Catholic bishops, reports that lunch at the Giuseppe Salvia Detention Center was originally not on the schedule, but Pope Francis made a special request to dine with the inmates. A number of the estimated 100 prisoners are gay, transgender and/or infected with HIV, the report said.

The prisoners were chosen via raffle from the facility’s 1900 inmates, writes David Gibson, a top Vatican watcher at Religion News Service. Pope Francis intends to greet each prisoner after a short and simple meal, Vatican Radio reports.

Pope Francis has made caring for inmates a priority of his papacy. He washed the feet of Muslim and women prisoners weeks after his election as pope, and is planning to wash inmates feet again this upcoming Holy Thursday. Pope Francis on Friday also reiterated the Catholic Church’s position that no crime deserves the death penalty. Capital punishment, he said, is “inadmissible, however serious the crime.”

The report of the lunch is also a reminder of the new tone and signature phrase of the Pope Francis papacy–“Who am I to judge?”–which was the Holy Father’s response to a question about homosexuality months after his election.

[Religion News Service]

Read next: I’m Proud To Be a Transgender Catholic

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Religion

This Cathedral Will Stop Drenching Homeless People in Water

St. Mary's Church in San Francisco, Ca.
Getty Images St. Mary's Church in San Francisco, Ca.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco called the system "ill-conceived"

A cathedral in San Francisco will stop pouring water on homeless people to prevent them from sleeping in its doorways after the method incited public outrage.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Archdiocese of San Francisco called the sprinkler system at Saint Mary’s Cathedral “ill-conceived” and added, “The purpose was to make the Cathedral grounds as well as the homeless people who happen to be on those grounds safer… It actually has had the opposite effect from what it was intended to do, and for this we are very sorry.”

The controversial system sparked a backlash, with Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, calling it “very shocking, and very inhumane,” reports CBS San Francisco.

The system could also be illegal. The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection issued a notice of violation for “the unpermitted downspout,” according to the Washington Post. The cathedral has said it has already begun removing the system.

TIME faith

Presbyterian Church Votes to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage

The church redefines marriage to include "a commitment between two people"

Correction appended, March 18

The Presbyterian Church (USA) made a historic decision Tuesday night to formally recognize gay marriage and allow same-sex couples to marry in its congregations.

The largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S. voted to redefine the church constitution on marriage to include “a commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman,” the New York Times reports.

The vote, which was approved by a majority of the church’s 171 regional bodies (or presbyteries), cements a recommendation made last year by its General Assembly. As of Tuesday night, the vote stood at 87 presbyteries in favor to 41 against with one tied.

“Finally, the church in its constitutional documents fully recognizes that the love of gays and lesbian couples is worth celebrating in the faith community,” Rev. Brian D. Ellison, executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which advocates for the inclusion of gay people in the church, told the Times.

There is a provision that states no clergy would be compelled to preside over a same-sex marriage.

The denomination has some 1.8 million members and about 10,000 congregations.

[NYT]

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the Presbyterian Church (USA). It is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S.

TIME technology

How to Get Over an Addiction to Facebook

Facebook-logo
Robert Galbraith—Reuters

The key is to foster a contemplative relationship with social media, rather than an addictive one

patheoslogo_blue

Hi. My name is Carl and I’m a Facebook addict.

(“Hi, Carl!”)

This past weekend, against my better judgment, I got into an unpleasant debate in a Facebook group with a young person whom I do not know. No need to go into details here — let’s just say that by the end, nobody was edified. Much of my weekend got swallowed up in a back-and-forth conversation that generated much more heat than light. I’m embarrassed that I allowed myself to get so thoroughly triggered, and that I kept going back for more, even once I realized that the conversation was not productive. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time. But hopefully, this was a “bottoming out” experience, that will force me to create a new relationship with social media: a contemplative relationship rather than a compulsive (addictive) one.

Monks like to say that the heart of monasticism is “I fall down, I get up; I fall down, I get up.” Apparently that’s true for social media as well—at least for me.

As a first step in my “recovery,” I’ve done something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while now. I asked Facebook to convert my personal account (with thousands of friends, most of whom I have never met in real life) and merge it with my existing Facebook Page dedicated to my professional life as a writer and speaker. By doing so, in one fell swoop I have unjoined all the groups I was a member of, and my FB presence is now centered on my work life rather than my personal life. In essence, it’s wiping my slate clean so I can start fresh.

I’ve known a lot of people who have done variations on this: put their Facebook account on ice for Lent, or simply deleted a bloated account and starting fresh with a new one. Since all the conventional wisdom about being a freelance writer nowadays is that one must be on social media, I resisted the temptation to simply nuke my entire Facebook presence (but yes, I was tempted). After all, recovering from a social media addiction can be like recovery from overeating or compulsive spending: the goal is to form a new and healthier relationship with the addictive substance.

So what can someone like you or I do to foster a contemplative relationship with social media, rather than an addictive one where too much time is spent online or too much arguing and debate happens there? Here are a few thoughts on the matter, and I’d be curious to hear from others about what they think.

1. Follow the Rules. Facebook recommends its users only initiate (or accept) friend requests with “people who know you well, like friends, family and coworkers.” In a similar way, LinkedIn recommends only sending “Invitations to connect” to people “you know and trust.” Clearly, there’s no hard and fast rule about what this means — but in the past, I was too quick to accept friend requests from anyone who wandered by. Not only has this meant I’ve had to spend lots of time reading posts that weren’t relevant to my life, but also that I’ve had to deal with too many spammers and trolls. I’m an American and so I’m susceptible to our national dogma that “more is better” — but on Facebook, more friends is not necessarily better. Quality, not quantity.

2. Know the difference between an account and a page. Facebook frowns on using one’s personal account to promote a business, and suggests that if you have a product or a service you want others to know about — even if it’s just a blog — that you set up a public page to get the word out. I’ve had a public page for some time now, enabling me to keep my personal and professional lives separate (posting links to my blog on my page, pictures of my cats on my account) but the lines have often seemed too blurry. But it seems to me that Facebook guidelines can sort this out: the personal account is for a relatively small number of close friends, family and co-workers. The page is for everybody.

3. Be careful about joining groups. My unpleasant conversation this weekend took place in a group, and I should have known better: the group where it happened embodies a certain perspective and I was arguing for a point contrary to that position. No wonder it ended badly. But even when it’s all peace and love in a group, it can be the kind of setting where someone like me can invest a lot of time agreeing with people who agree with me. And then the weekend’s gone and the lawn never got mowed.

4. Manage the timeline. I have some family and friends who I love dearly, but in real life we don’t talk politics. So why do I allow myself to read their political rants on Facebook? All it does is make my blood boil, and there’s no point arguing back — the few times I’ve tried, it always just escalates. Facebook allows you to remain a friend with someone but to disallow their posts from showing up on your timeline. Obviously, if you want to stay in touch with someone this might not be an ideal option, but it can be a great way to keep loved ones in your FB circle while also protecting your blood pressure.

5. Make use of Facebook’s “Friends List” feature. Some people are close friends. Others, just acquaintances. Facebook allows us to invisibly mark each connection accordingly (we can also tag family members and set up custom lists). Then, when we post something, we can decide if the general public sees it, or just friends/acquaintances, or just close friends. It’s a good way to manage who gets to see pictures of the new kitten and who gets to read about our deepest hopes and fears.

6. Disengage. Obviously, from what happened this past weekend, I’m still working on this one. But it’s a simple principle: if someone posts something I vehemently disagree with, I don’t have to post a clever or snarky reply. I’m sorry to say it, but I find it’s all too easy to get argumentative with people online, usually about something I feel passionate about — but online arguing rarely does anybody any good. If I must post something, I’m going to try to be as objective/factual as possible, state my case, and then let it go. If the other person(s) tries to pick a fight with me? Disengage.

7. Forgive. When I make a mistake online — whether spending too much time on Facebook, or getting caught up in an unpleasant exchange — I have to remember to forgive myself; after all, we all do foolish or hurtful things from time to time. And when it involves somebody else, I need to forgive them too, if necessary. Forgiveness doesn’t mean I can avoid making positive changes — but it does mean I can let go of the sting of old mistakes when what’s done is done. I once heard a recording of Thomas Keating where he suggested that remorse is healthy only for about 30 seconds! The point behind remorse or contrition is that it impels us to make positive changes. After that, it has served its purpose and needs to be released. Forgiveness is how such release takes place.

8. Pray. It’s humbling for me to admit that, after having a Facebook account for six years, I still don’t do a very good job at limiting the amount of time I spend on it, or maintaining boundaries between my personal and professional lives, or avoiding getting into useless debates and arguments. Well, I’m only human: “I fall down, I get back up.” But maybe the single best strategy is to remember the Jesuit principle that we can find God in all things. Yes, even social media. If I can bear in mind that my time on Facebook or Twitter or Patheos is time spent in the presence of God, maybe that can help me to be a bit wiser, a bit more loving, a bit more present. Which leads to my final and most important point:

9. Be Silent. I’m still working this one out, but it’s becoming obvious to me that silence needs to be an ingredient in my social media engagement. I need time off from Facebook, whether that means a Sabbath day when the computer never gets turned on, or a “Great Silence” period of eight hours or so each evening/night to give it a rest. Just as important, silence needs to be an element of how I am present online: this is a corollary to #6 above, where I can choose to respond to inflammatory or triggering posts with the generosity of silence rather than the intensity of debate.

Okay, this is a work in progress. I’d love to know your thoughts: what do you do to maintain a contemplative relationship with social media?

Carl McColman is a life-professed Lay Cistercian — a layperson under formal spiritual guidance at a Trappist monastery. He is also an instructor with Emory University’s certificate program in creative writing, and regularly teaches the craft of nonfiction, as well as writing and journaling as a spiritual practice.

This article originally appeared on Patheos.

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